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Schools and families all over the nation are spending billions of dollars on hand-held mobile devices. In the United States, ninety-one percent of adults have the world at their fingertips 24/7. These devices hold the capacity to bring our world into our classrooms, yet teachers and schools are leery of opening these doors. There are important discussions you can have with your students as well as some simple classroom management ideas you can implement to open the world to your students. Here are some things to consider and resources to use if your classroom or school is using handheld devices this school year. As Time’s Cyrus Beagley said: “Content in the right context drives engagement.”
Mobile devices are valuable resources with life-long influences and consequences. When using hand-held devices in classrooms, have discussions with your students regarding their responsibility as a Digital Citizen. Everything you tweet, post, create, and share has a reach beyond your classroom doors, beyond your schools, into the world. This should, however, not cause fear and cause you to shut down and lock the “mobile doors.” Instead, spend the beginning of the year explaining and teaching Digital Citizenship to your students. It’s a life-long skill and they should understand the digital footprint they are leaving on our world.
- Interaction–explain your expectations for posts, creations, work and communication with others online. Blogs, chat rooms, apps, web sites can open the possibility of interaction between your students and others around the globe. Lead discussions on cyber bullies using http://www.netsmartz.org/cyberbullying and other resources. Provide students with the tools to understand what cyberbulling is, how to react to cyberbulling, and how to protect themselves. Discuss the importance of protecting their identity, never sharing personal information, and understanding we never really know who is on the other end of an online interaction. Protecting your students’ identity should go beyond the contract your classroom or school signs and include arming them with information to protect them anywhere online.
- Subject—explain your expectations for posts, creations, work and communication as you learn about and explore subjects on mobile devices. Communicate clearly your expectations for acceptable content. Have lessons at the beginning of the year about sharing information that will HIT your mark. Is it Helpful, Interesting, Thought provoking? This should include all content students are creating as well as viewing and using for learning. Anything on mobile devices has an old school pencil/paper cousin. If there is something that can be done online, the activity can also be done on paper. Use this to protect students from themselves should they abuse your subject rules and venture into content, posts, apps or other areas that do not HIT the objectives of the lesson. Providing students with online content allows you to have current, relevant, and highly engaging material that will increase student participation, interest, and therefore learning.
- Behavior—explain your expectations for posts, creations, work and communication as an extension of your classroom behavior. Discuss with students that everything they do online contributes to their online reputation. Post, creations and online communication represents your classroom and school. Lead discussion on digital footprints and online safety using http://www.ikeepsafe.org/ and other resources. Help students understand that while we feel invisible and anonymous online, the reality is everything we do leaves a digital footprint. Help them be the good person online that they are offline.
- Management—just as you develop your classroom routines and expectations at the beginning of the school year, you must discuss, model, and reinforce your expectations with mobile devices in your room. Be mobile (pun intended) as your students are working and roam around the room. If you have had the discussions above and a student is doing something against your expectations take the device. It is a privilege. They can meet the objective doing the activity with books, paper, and pencil. Take the device and give them a different tool for the assignment. It is that simple. Follow the pre-determined plan of your classroom or school. They may lose the device for the session, the week, the month, the quarter, the semester, the year. They may be partnered with another student so they can access information but not allowed the freedom to roam. This is an extension of your classroom management and you need to be clear but fair in your implementation.
Teaching is hard work. There is a never-ending demand of things to do, change, learn, and implement. Mobile devices are just another tool in our tool belt of knowledge. Albert Einstein said, “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” Bringing mobile devices into your classrooms will open the doors to learning beyond your students’ imaginations.